Watson, Lyall - The marvellous design of insect wings
Type of Spiritual Experience
This is about insects and how they fly. Watson describes how even with a huge variety of designs for wings, the ‘flight software’ for many insects is the same, in effect, we have a common function [program] implemented on a number of designs. The execution of the program varies by species so that some species execute the program extremely fast, others less so, but the function remains the same function.
To understand this in terms of our analogy and software, imagine the little insect as a toy, a small robot, you want to program to get it to fly. You have an inanimate object, which you have decided needs to fly by making the wings. This is the functional specification …
‘trace an undulating figure of eight path, moving back on the up and forward on the down stroke, with the wing surfaces never completely flat, being thrown into waves, frills reciprocating curves that adjust to the stress of air pressure at every part of the pattern’
Now all you have to do is write the program! Not easy of course, but such programs are part and parcel of every jet fighter. They call it ‘fly-by wire’ the pilot actually has very little control over the actual flying, all of it is computer and hence software controlled. And, so I maintain, are insects. Except of course, we didn’t program them.
Incidentally, the description also contains a description of the fact that the flying affects air systems, producing vibrations which we hear as sound. A lot of systems are involved here – the system and hence software that creates the air movements, the system and software that propels the vibration along and the highly complex software we have to process sound.
A description of the experience
Lyall Watson – Heaven’s Breath
There are lace wings, netwings, wings like gossamer, horn and leather; wings that are fringed, grooved, painted, stained and stencilled; wings that are metallic, prismatic, polished, opaque, pellucid or totally transparent. And all, except for the dragonflies, whose fixed wings vibrate on the ends of special muscles, beat indirectly by flexing bands of muscle that raise, lower and rotate the airfoils by changing the whole shape of the insect’s body.
Insects with four wings, beat them all in unison, sometimes locking fore and aft wings together with a clasp or yoke that makes the coupling more efficient. Very few have a straight up and down stroke. The tendency is for them to trace an undulating figure of eight path, moving back on the up and forward on the down stroke, but the wing surfaces are never completely flat, being thrown into waves, frills reciprocating curves that adjust to the stress of air pressure at every part of the pattern.
Most butterflies beat their wings at a rate of eight or nine times a second, hawkmoths at about seventy two, large wasps at 110, solitary bees at 190, horse flies at 240, and house flies at speeds which may reach 330 beats a second. All in the process produce vibrations, hums or buzzes that are characteristic of each species and can be used to distinguish one from the other